The ECHL on Friday announced the coaches for the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic, to be hosted by the Indy Fuel on Monday, Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. ET at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The game will air LIVE exclusively on NHL Network.
For the first time in ECHL history, the All-Star Classic will feature not two, but four teams, representing each of the League’s divisions. In a format similar to those adapted by the NHL and AHL All-Star Games, the four teams will compete in a 3-on-3 tournament in order to crown a winner. The two semifinal matches will be played within the Eastern and Western Conferences; with the North Division taking on the South Division and the Central Division facing the Mountain Division. The 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place after the second semifinal game, with the championship round following immediately at the conclusion of the Skills Competition.
Colorado Eagles’ head coach Aaron Schneekloth will serve as head coach of the Mountain Division All-Stars by virtue of the Eagles having the top winning percentage in the Western Conference through games of Dec. 23, 2017. Colorado, which captured the 2017 Kelly Cup title in Schneekloth’s first season as head coach, is 23-5-4 and leads the ECHL with 50 points and is second with a .781 winning percentage.
The Florida Everblades had the Eastern Conference’s best winning percentage through games of Dec. 23, 2017, however, Everblades’ head coach Brad Ralph will coach the team during its regular season game at Atlanta on Jan. 15. With Ralph unavailable for the All-Star Game, South Carolina Stingrays’ head coach Ryan Warsofsky will serve as head coach of the South Division All-Stars. Warsofsky led South Carolina to the Kelly Cup Finals in his first season as head coach in 2017. The Stingrays are 19-7-4 for 42 points and are in second place of the South Division.
Bernie John of the host Indy Fuel will serve as head coach for the Central Division All-Stars while a celebrity coach will lead the North Division All-Stars.
It is the first All-Star coaching appearance for Schneekloth, Warskofsky and John. The record for All-Star appearances is three by Chris Cichocki, Glen Gulutzan, Davis Payne and Jeff Pyle.
Fourteen coaches from the ECHL All-Star Game have gone on to coach in the National Hockey League while 67 players from the contest have gone on to play in the NHL, including 51 since 2002 when the lineups began having players who coaches felt were prospects to move up to a higher level.
The 11th class will be inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame on Monday, Jan. 15 during a formal dinner, presented by BFL CANADA and Sutton Special Risk, featuring Induction Ceremonies, players from the ECHL All-Star Teams, and several of the NHL and ECHL’s most prestigious trophies.
The 2018 ECHL All-Star Fan Fest, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers, will kick off the All-Star festivities Sunday, Jan. 14 from 2-8 p.m. at The Pavilion at Pan Am. Fans in attendance can enjoy a wide array of entertainment options throughout the day in anticipation for the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic. The Hockey Hall of Fame will be on hand with a variety of interactive activities and exhibits, including displays of ECHL and NHL trophies and memorabilia. Fans can enjoy a live performance from Indianapolis’ own Hunter Smith Band, while having the chance to get autographs from Indy Fuel players, ECHL All-Stars and league mascots.
Aaron Schneekloth, Colorado Eagles
Aaron Schneekloth is in his second season as Colorado’s head coach after being named to the position on July 18, 2016. In his first season, he led the Eagles to their first-ever Kelly Cup title, becoming the first rookie coach to lead a team to an ECHL championship since 1990. He assumed his first head-coaching position after serving as the Eagles’ assistant coach in the previous three seasons.
Prior to moving behind the bench, the Calgary, Alberta native enjoyed a stellar professional career that spanned 11 years and saw him spend seven seasons in an Eagles sweater, including a championship season in 2007. The 37-year-old was named the ECHL’s Defenseman of the Year in 2012, while being voted the Central Hockey League’s Most Outstanding Defenseman in both 2009 and 2010. A four-time All-Star and a member of both the CHL’s All-Decade Team and the Colorado Eagles All-Decade Team, Schneekloth was also named to the All-ECHL First Team in 2012 and was voted to the All-CHL Team on three separate occasions.
Schneekloth retired in 2013 as the Eagles all-time leader in points, goals and assists by a defenseman. He also left having etched his name into the Eagles record book ranked 5th overall in points (356), 2nd in games played (382) and 6th in goals (111). He also owns a NCAA championship as a member of the University of North Dakota team which captured the NCAA title in 2000.
Ryan Warsofsky, South Carolina Stingrays
Ryan Warsofsky was named the seventh head coach in Stingrays’ team history on July 6, 2016. Prior to his promotion to head coach, he served as the club’s assistant coach for the previous three seasons. Warsofsky is the first American-born coach in franchise history, and is the fifth-youngest coach in ECHL history. He is currently the youngest active coach in the league.
In his first season as head coach, he guided the Stingrays to the Kelly Cup Finals for the second time in three years and South Carolina became just the second team in ECHL history to advance to the Conference Finals in three consecutive seasons. Since joining the Stingrays in 2013, Warsofsky has played a large role in several of the most successful seasons in team history while working with the team’s defense and special teams. Under his guidance in 2015-16, South Carolina won the South Division, and surrendered just 162 goals against, the lowest total for a single season in club history. Additionally, the club finished top-five in the ECHL on the penalty kill (87.5 percent, 1st) and the power play (19.6 percent, 4th). Warsofsky was part of the 2014-15 club that recorded an ECHL-record 23-game win-streak and advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals. Under Warsofsky’s watch, the club’s penalty kill finished first in the league in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Warsofsky, a native of North Marshfield, Mass., patrolled the blue line for Sacred Heart and Curry College before playing one season of professional hockey in 2011-12. He moved behind the bench in 2012, serving as an Assistant Coach at Curry College for one season before joining the Stingrays.
Bernie John, Indy Fuel
A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Bernie John is in his second full season as head coach of the Fuel. John served as an assistant coach for Indy from its inaugural season in 2014-15 until taking over as the club’s head coach for the final 13 games of the 2015-16 campaign.
Long familiar with Indianapolis hockey, John served as an assistant coach for the 2013-14 Indiana Ice, winners of the Clark Cup as USHL champions. Before joining the coaching ranks, John enjoyed a 13-year professional playing career, including five seasons with the CHL’s Indianapolis Ice from 1999 to 2004, during which John helped the Ice claim the 2000 Ray Miron President’s Cup as CHL champions.
About the ECHL
Began in 1988-89 with five teams in four states, the ECHL has grown into a coast-to-coast league with 27 teams in 21 states and one Canadian province for its 30th season in 2017-18. There have been 635 players who have gone on to play in the National Hockey League after starting their careers in the ECHL, including 12 who have made their NHL debuts in the 2017-18 season. The ECHL has affiliations with 26 of the 31 NHL teams in 2017-18, marking the 21st consecutive season that the league had affiliations with at least 20 teams in the NHL. Further information on the ECHL is available on its website at ECHL.com as well as on Twitter and Facebook.